Bare Knuckle FC returned on Saturday, April 6th, with another night of un-gloved boxing competition. The promotion has quickly established a reputation for putting on entertaining, high-action events, since their inception in 2018—largely built off a roster featuring notable cult MMA action fighters like Chris Lytle, Leonard Garcia, Tony Lopez, Joey Beltran, and Bec Rawlings.
Their latest event, BKFC 5 was headlined by a five-round instant-classic between recently released UFC fighters Artem Lobov and Jason Knight. Both men hit the ring 100% down to scrap. And while Lobov won a unanimous decision, neither man could be said to have escaped undamaged.
Earlier in the evening, however, it seems one fight didn’t quite meet BKFC President David Feldman’s expectations for punishing violence. And after the fight was over, he stepped into the ring to deliver a pointed message at one of the competitors.
“Hey Biloxi, you guys having fun tonight? Make some noise!” Feldman said, before launching into his diatribe. “Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship is a brand new sport, and a brand new company and we’re here for action. We want action and we demand action from the fighters. We didn’t get action in that last fight, because Rusty Crowder wanted to run. Therefore, he’s giving half his purse to Reggie Barnett. Make some noise Biloxi. This is how we do it at Bare Knuckle. You fight, or you don’t get paid.”
After the event, the promotion attempted to do some damage control over the threatening (and very likely not contractually enforceable) statement via Twitter. Telling fans that “No money was taken from any fighters. That statement did exactly what it was supposed and lit a fire under every single fighters ass from that point on.”
Speaking to Eric Kowal of MyMMANews, Feldman further clarified his actions, reaffirming that Crowder was in fact paid the full purse, and that his speech at the time was a “knee jerk reaction.”
“I am very passionate about this sport and the building process,” Feldman told Kowal. “The fighters get paid very well. All I ask is that they fight their hearts out. I tell the fighters that the companies growth depends on their performance. At the time I thought it was the right thing to do, but did what I thought was right so, after the fight Rusty was paid what he was contracted to be paid. We had a talk and he understands what I meant. It was more of a knee jerk reaction, because he didn’t try to fight. That being said, we couldn’t be happier with the results of last nights event and look forward to what the future holds.”
Hopefully for fighters, the future will hold continued guarantees that the money they’re set to make when they step in the ring, is the money they see after they leave it as well. Former UFC fighter Chris Leben entered into a lawsuit against competitor World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation just last month over that promotion’s refusal to pay fighters. Feldman may have felt he needed to make a point, that BKFC is here to deliver a product above and beyond its competition. But, in a combat sports landscape littered with shady businessmen and failed promotional endeavors, he sounded far more like exactly the kind of trouble that’s all too familiar to fans and athletes.